Welcome to Should I Listen To This?, where we deep-dive into a podcast to find out what it’s about, what works, what doesn’t, and whether or not you need to make the all-important decision to hit subscribe and add it to your rotation.
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Podcast: Strong as Steele
What Is It?: It’s a college football podcast focused on on-field results and statistics. There is a betting angle to the podcast, but it is more about predictions and analysis than looking at spreads.
Who’s The Host?: Judging by the thumbnail, Phil Steele hosts with a cardboard cutout of Michael Reghi. Steele is the go-to college football analyst from a statistical perspective. Reghi used to be a sports talk host in Cleveland and was both the play-by-play voice of the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Cavaliers, once upon a time. Known for his multi-syllabic vernacular, he even has a parody Twitter account.
What’s a Normal Episode Like?: This summer, the season preview episodes have taken about an hour to go through a division of a certain conference, breaking down the teams in alphabetical order. In season, episodes are a little over an hour and try to discuss as many games from the upcoming weekend. They also take calls, which happens when the show is taped live using Blog Talk Radio.
Who Is It For?: College football fans who want to know how the players have performed and how they will perform. It’s a narrow focus, but there is a lot to extrapolate from the FBS. As an alum of a Division III school, I’d love to hear what Steele knows about Denison football, but I’ll survive on his and Reghi’s Ohio State and MAC takes.
Who Is It Not For?: This isn’t a show for people who want a wider range of discussion. Off-field issues are tangentially mentioned, at most. Joe Mixon, for example, was mentioned as a key loss for Oklahoma because of his on-field talent. Neither Steele nor Reghi mentioned his alleged assault. That said, they mentioned off-field issues as a knock against Michigan State during their team preview.
Can I Jump Right In?: During the season, you can jump in as it’s updated each week. That also means episodes get stale as soon as results come in. Most of the conference preview podcasts feel like two-parters because they’re split up by division.
What’s Not Great?: This podcast reeks of two hosts who are from a generation that does not comprehend what podcasts are or how they work. I heard multiple “iTunes.com” drops from Reghi, heard Steele give out a phone number on air for his newsletter subscription, and they make it sound revolutionary that episodes are available after they air. In 2017, this makes the show feel more like antiquated sports talk than a podcast. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when Steele’s website design is straight out of 1998.
For all of the new content this show produces, it feels extremely repetitive. The theme song is the instrumental riff from “Seven Nation Army” with highlights played over it, which is the most cliched opening to a sports podcast I can think of. If the highlights changed, that would be fine, but I did not hear any variation in that opening song. That’s not how I would open a podcast, but I am also the type of person who realizes it isn’t SPORTS! unless “Seven Nation Army” pops up somewhere.
I’m not sure which made me cringe more: Reghi’s SeatGeek reads or Steele’s MVMT Watches read. And I get that Steele has his magazine and a growing role with ESPN. But the mentions about his work feel like poorly-integrated sponsorships instead of self-promotion. The hosts don’t need to give their resumes to show that they’re experts. They just need to show off their impressive knowledge about college football.
I also worry that Steele’s increased role at ESPN will lead to less depth of coverage. Maybe he will tell listeners to supplement the podcast with his insider pieces, which is fine, but not everyone who subscribes to Strong as Steele has or wants ESPN Insider, or his magazines/newsletters, no matter the price.
None of these issues alone make the show unlistenable, but all of them together take away from the high-level content the show wants to be known for.
So, Should I Listen To This?: Despite the title, this show feels like a lengthy guest spot from Steele on Reghi’s sports talk show. It probably has something to do with Steele phoning in and Reghi sounding like he’s in a studio, especially on the recent preview episodes. It’s an observation that makes it clear Reghi is a sports talk guy and Steele is a college football writer.
Strong as Steele does a great job for being what it is: an single-sport game analysis/preview podcast. With that narrow focus, Steele does what he is known for, digging deep into the stats and film. If that perspective interests you, then this is a great college football podcast. If not, then you’ll have to look for a more broadly-focused show to subscribe to.
Bottom Line – TL;DR: Despite the hosts’ lack of understanding of podcasting in 2017, Strong as Steele shows off their depth of on-field college football knowledge.